Leeds United 2 – 0 Aston Villa
Few complaints about the final score. Whilst Villa were in the game for an hour, the first goal was the only time during Steve Bruce’s reign where heads have dropped. In the end, Leeds were good value for their win.
It leaves us with heads scratched about why the defeat happened. There wasn’t much warning that we would see a performance which left a lot to be desired from a Villa point of view. On another Saturday, Albert Adomah would have won a penalty after he was brought down in the area but away from home, it’s a brave referee who awards them.
There weren’t many chances to talk of in the first half. Both midfields pressed hard and the defences stood firm. The limitations of Jonathan Kodjia being played out wide were exposed. The Ivory Coast centre forward was isolated at times and ineffective; Leeds’ central pairing were relieved not to be facing Kodjia. Rudy Gestede was well-marshalled, starved of proper service. Could Kodjia have done better? I think so.
The second forty-five minutes weren’t any better. Westwood missed a gilt-edged chance in the first half, Adomah did the same with 54 played, dragging the ball wide of Green in the Leeds goal. Gestede’s effort shortly after wasn’t an improvement.
And in typical Villa fashion Leeds opened the scoring as we assumed the ascendancy. Doukara on the left slung a cross in and Villa’s defensive Roofe caved in. The former Albion player thundered his header home, with the centre of our defence playing like they’ve been out for a night on the tiles.
It put our promotion hopes in the gutter [that’s enough roof jokes – Ed].
At which point, you knew that the gig was up. This wasn’t our night and when Wood shot straight at Gollini, you wondered if a late goal might be on the cards. It was and Wood pounced after the Italian parried Vieira’s initial effort.
I don’t think we can have too many complaints. There were a lot of distinctly average performances yesterday on both sides but we lacked that one player to make the difference, to raise the team out of their workmanlike game.
Defeat isn’t the end of the world; we’re six points off the play-offs and uncomfortably, six points off relegation. Defeat was inevitable at some point during Bruce’s reign and eight games in, we’ve made massive strides since he took over. The question is, which way are we going from here?
If this is a blip, a one-off which we chalk down to a learning curve, that’s fine – as if losing can ever be fine – but the worry would be if we don’t bounce back immediately. The trips to Carrow Road and Loftus Road in the next week or so were always marked out as key fixtures and nothing’s changed. Four points from those two, as well as three against Wigan on Saturday leaves us nicely poised for the promotion push.
Can we deliver? It’s a tough ask but this is the Villa squad’s first test under Bruce and I wouldn’t like to be one of the players if they fail.